By Craig Hayes. Harsh noise is a hard sell. It’s deliberately challenging, purposely demanding, and intentionally punishing, and most people don’t even consider noise to be music at all. That includes people who’ll otherwise happily listen to warp-speed grindcore, gruelling sewage sludge, or the rawest black metal.By Craig Hayes.
Harsh noise is a hard sell. It’s deliberately challenging, purposely demanding, and intentionally punishing, and most people don’t even consider noise to be music at all. That includes people who’ll otherwise happily listen to warp-speed grindcore, gruelling sewage sludge, or the rawest black metal. But it often seems like noise is just a step too far. If you’re in that camp, then you’ll hate what sonic executioners Bastard Noise and Sickness have cooked up on their strident two track collaborative release, Death’s Door. However, if you’re broad-minded noise fan with a penchant for abrasive sonic trauma, then Death’s Door is set to deliver a perfectly provocative, and always brain-battering, stockpile of power electronics.
Many years ago, I read an article about noise music that summed up the genre's appeal in a few simple sentences. Essentially, and I’m paraphrasing here, that article argued that noise is noteworthy because it breaks the code. What code? Well, generally, music is all about the message, those recurrent motifs, and the meaning –– i.e. the code. But noise distorts all of those elements. It reconfigures them. Redefines them. And in the case of bands like Bastard Noise and Sickness, and releases like Death’s Door, that code is smashed into unidentifiable pieces. And then erased off the fucking map.
These days, we’re drowning in endless multi-platform communiqués, and that means bands like Bastard Noise and Sickness, and their music-mutating kin, matter more than ever. Whether they're using maelstrom synths, feedback-fuelled guitars, or ear-piercing electronics, those bands corrupt or even entirely halt that incessant stream of communication. In doing so, they provide a visceral sense of catharsis rendering the inconsequential mute, and purging the trivial in a torrent of static.
In other words, noise offers a much-needed albeit frequently brutal reboot. Bastard Noise have been providing that since the early 90s. These days, the mega-prolific band is primarily helmed by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Eric Wood, but Bastard Noise has also featured plenty of other renowned contributors and collaborators over the years. Sickness (aka Chris Goudreau) has been an audio assassin since starting his “tape-loop/industrial” project in late 80s. And his work in the extreme noise and cut-and-paste electronics realm is highly regarded too. Wood and Goudreau working together on Death’s Door makes perfect sense because they are experts at (de)composition, reconstructing hardware, and then subverting software in order to produce sheer hellish malware.
That’s exactly what Bastard Noise and Sickness do on Death’s Door. The release opens with a gut-wrenching vocal roar that kicks off the 16-minute title track, and then a nightmare unfolds as glitchy stabs of caustic sounds collide with blaring sirens, alarms, and eviscerating frequencies. "Death's Door" is a dissonant horror show, where Bastard Noise and Sickness tear a rent in reality. And the good news is, if you make it out the other side, you’ll find "Ever Downward" patiently waiting to fry whatever's left of your synapses with its corrupted electronics.
If "Death's Door" smashes open a portal –– and, really, there’s no doubt that it does just that –– then "Ever Downward" is where Bastard Noise and Sickness sculpt dark scenes from beyond the veil. the track is darkly rhythmic, and eerily dynamic, with deep droning layers of acid-burnt electronics and feedback being entangled tighter and tighter as the track builds to its ear-splitting climax. "Ever Downward" is an exquisite example of how to simultaneously ratchet up the high frequency torment and emotional tension. It's a harsh but necessary lesson. With deliverance delivered via audio exorcism, waiting at the track's end.
If you weren’t a fan of harsh noise or power electronics already, Death’s Door certainly isn’t going to convert you to the cause. But that’s not any kind of deficit. Nor does it reflect any deficiencies on Bastard Noise and Sickness behalf. Death’s Door is a welcomingly uncompromising endeavour, delivering two pieces of piercing music that travel entirely different pathways into the pits of perdition. No question, the code is certainly crushed along the way. And doorways to other dimensions are kicked wide open. Death’s Door really is a harrowing and soul-scouring reboot –– i.e. it's exactly what’s needed, in this day and age.